GUIDO BARDI, A Florentine prince
SIMONE, a merchant
BIANCA, his wife
The action takes place at Florence in the early sixteenth century.
[The door opens, they separate guiltily, and the husband enters.]
SIMONE: My good wife, you come slowly; were it not better To run to meet your lord? Here, take my cloak. Take this pack first. 'Tis heavy. I have sold nothing: Save a furred robe unto the Cardinal's son, Who hopes to wear it when his father dies, And hopes that will be soon.
But who is this? Why you have here some friend. Some kinsman doubtless, Newly returned from foreign lands and fallen Upon a house without a host to greet him? I crave your pardon, kinsman. For a house Lacking a host is but an empty thing And void of honour; a cup without its wine, A scabbard without steel to keep it straight, A flowerless garden widowed of the sun. Again I crave your pardon, my sweet cousin.
BIANCA: This is no kinsman and no cousin neither.
SIMONE: No kinsman, and no cousin! You amaze me. Who is it then who with such courtly grace Deigns to accept our hospitalities?
GUIDO: My name is Guido Bardi.
SIMONE: What! The son Of that great Lord of Florence whose dim towers Like shadows silvered by the wandering moon I see from out my casement every night! Sir Guido Bardi, you are welcome here, Twice welcome. For I trust my honest wife, Most honest if uncomely to the eye, Hath not with foolish chatterings wearied you, As is the wont of women.
GUIDO: Your gracious lady, Whose beauty is a lamp that pales the stars And robs Diana's quiver of her beams Has welcomed me with such sweet courtesies That if it be her pleasure, and your own, I will come often to your simple house. And when your business bids you walk abroad I will sit here and charm her loneliness Lest she might sorrow for you overmuch. What say you, good Simone?
SIMONE: My noble Lord, You bring me such high honour that my tongue Like a slave's tongue is tied, and cannot say The word it would. Yet not to give you thanks Were to be too unmannerly. So, I thank you, From my heart's core.
It is such things as these That knit a state together, when a Prince So nobly born and of such fair address, Forgetting unjust Fortune's differences, Comes to an honest burgher's honest home As a most honest friend.
And yet, my Lord, I fear I am too bold. Some other night We trust that you will come here as a friend; To-night you come to buy my merchandise. Is it not so? Silks, velvets, what you will, I doubt not but I have some dainty wares Will woo your fancy. True, the hour is late, But we poor merchants toil both night and day To make our scanty gains. The tolls are high, And every city levies its own toll, And prentices are unskilful, and wives even Lack sense and cunning, though Bianca here Has brought me a rich customer to-night. Is it not so, Bianca? But I waste time. Where is my pack? Where is my pack, I say? Open it, my good wife. Unloose the cords. Kneel down upon the floor. You are better so. Nay not that one, the other. Despatch, despatch! Buyers will grow impatient oftentimes. We dare not keep them waiting. Ay! 'tis that, Give it to me; with care. It is most costly. Touch it with care.